Ray McManus looks at how boys test each other in death-defying ways in this summer poem.
How Boys are Measured
It happens on an August night on Black’s bridge.
Someone has to call it. And because it is night
and no one can see and boys have to be pushed,
there is yelling, a shuffle in the awkward dark
toward the ledge. There is nothing to feel in front,
just the sound of the water below swallowing boys
stripped to their skin. The chant: Too young to use it,
either jump or lose it. The tension between steps
one and two, front or back. A simple math: rate
is distance divided by time – two can’t stay in one
place forever. On the bridge, boys learn the arc of man,
the depths he will go for ceremony or shame.
On the bridge, boys learn the stories of those who died
jumping during the drought, and after, how the constable
untangled and stretched their bodies along the bank.
How he recorded their length by the steps he took.
Read more of Ray McManus’s poetry.
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Photo by CCFoodTravel.com/Flickr